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Frederick II ("the Great") on the Eve of the Battle of Leuthen (November 28 and December 3, 1757)

On the eve of the battle of Leuthen, Frederick’s situation seemed desperate, and he dispatched the following message to Minister Finckenstein. It was one of several “military testaments” to his risk-embracing warfare. The dramatic address to his officers, reported in an 1802 publication, is characteristic of Frederick’s rhetoric and mentality. On December 4, 1757, Frederick attacked the Austrians and their allies at Leuthen, where his forces prevailed on the battlefield, despite his adversaries’ considerable numerical advantage.

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November 28, 1757

[ . . . ]

I have issued orders to my Generals concerning all matters which must be done after the battle, whether the fortune of it be good or evil. For the rest, as concerns myself, I wish to be buried at Sans Souci, without display or pomp, and at night. I desire that my body should not lie in state, but that I should be taken there without ceremony and buried at night.

As to public affairs, the first thing should be that an order should be issued to all Commanding Officers to swear allegiance to my brother. If the battle is won, my brother is nevertheless to send a messenger to France to carry the news, and at the same time, to negotiate terms of peace, with full powers.

My will is to be opened, and I discharged my brother of all the money legacies in it, because the desolate condition of his finances will make it impossible for him to fulfill them. I commend to him my aides-de-camp, especially Wobersnow, Krusemark, Oppen and Lentulus. This is to be taken as a military testament. I commend all my domestic household to his care.

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